The League-opposed measure would remove some legal protections for a peace officer who violates a person’s constitutional rights while on the job.
A bill that would prohibit qualified immunity for peace officers was heard and passed on March 25 in the House Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform Finance and Policy Committee.
The measure, HF 1104 (Rep. John Thompson, DFL-St. Paul), was advanced to the House Judiciary Finance and Civil Law Committee. It is traveling through the committee process, even though policy committee deadlines agreed upon by the House and Senate have passed. That means the bill will have to travel to the Rules Committee for a deadline exception if it is to advance to the House Floor.
Civil cause of action
The bill creates a civil cause of action under state law to permit a person to sue a peace officer by alleging that the officer deprived the person of constitutional rights. It also provides that a peace officer who deprives another person’s constitutional rights is not immune from criminal liability.
League opposes bill
The League and law enforcement groups oppose the bill.
“As the House continues to engage in important conversations regarding police reform (as local governments across our state are also doing right now), we urge you to take the time to thoughtfully balance the need to have accountability for officer misconduct on the job with the consequences of creating a whole new set of civil claims against law enforcement officers,” the League said in a letter expressing opposition to the bill.
“Completely eliminating qualified and other state-created immunities as a legal defense in these cases,” the letter continues, “will have significant adverse consequences for local governments and the police officers whom they employ; and who are called upon to perform some of the most dangerous and difficult duties in our society.”
The measure passed on a party-line vote, with DFL members supporting and Republican members opposing. The Senate companion, SF 580 (Sen. Omar Fateh, DFL-Minneapolis), has not been scheduled for a hearing.